So often we think of cheese plates as belonging before or after dinner, but there is really a place for cheese at every meal. Today’s cheese plate is a brunch board that my husband and I enjoyed on a lovely, lazy Sunday morning. It has all the characteristics of a normal cheese plate – cheese, meat, fruit, carbs- with a breakfast-y spin.
The first cheese on the platter is homemade ricotta. Making ricotta is very simple and uses ingredients that you likely already have on hand. It’s simply milk, cream, salt, and an acid, like white wine vinegar or lemon juice. I use Ina Garten’s recipe here because it’s foolproof and deliciously decadent. The only special purchase you may have to make for this cheese is purchasing cheese cloth, but that is easily found at larger superstores or specialty kitchen shops. The only thing better than the simple ingredients it takes to make this cheese, is the fact that there is hardly any labor involved. You simply bring the milk, cream, and salt to a boil, remove from heat, stir in the acid (white wine vinegar in today’s ricotta), and pour into a colander lined with a cheese cloth to drain. Boom – 30 minutes later, you have ricotta. I like to dress mine up with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs or citrus zest. Today I used lavender, lemon zest, and thyme.
The second cheese is Brise du Matin from Alexis de Portneuf. This is a creamy, buttery, double crème that is mild, but well-balanced with a bit of earthiness in the rind. It is perfect for slicing up with some croissants and raspberry jam. While we were enjoying this cheese board, my husband asked why I so often write about Alexis de Portneuf cheese. And the answer is pretty simple: Alexis de Portneuf is a fromagerie with award-winning cheese. They sell their cheese everywhere (here in Canada), from specialty cheese shops to the local Save-On Foods. It’s quality and accessibility that can’t steer you wrong. I love them.
The third cheese is Yorkshire Wensleydale & Apricots. This is a crumbly and creamy cow’s milk cheese filled with bits of dried apricots. The taste is mild, sweet, and compatible with a variety of pairings. This is a great brunch board cheese because the apricots add such a bright, beautiful color to the board.
The fourth cheese is Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar. This is an award-winning cheddar from Cows Creamery on Prince Edward Island. It’s aged for 12 months and has a wonderfully developed, complex flavor that is fruity, nutty, and earthy. This cheese is named after the fictional town, Avonlea, from Anne of Green Gables which is a childhood favorite of mine. I’ve been excited to put this cheese on a board since I started this blog. I think the brunch board is the perfect debut since this style of food is probably more like what turn-of-the-century, maritime Canadians would have eaten than the fancy charcuterie on some of my other boards.
Since this was brunch, I decided to pair the board with breakfast’s best cheese-loving cocktail: the mimosa. However, as I am a mother of a toddler and an infant, I forgot to buy orange juice – whoops! So straight prosecco for brunch it was, and you know, I wasn’t too upset about that (see being a mother of two young children). In general, sparkling wine is a great pairing for cheese since the bubbles and acidity cut through the fat of the cheese. Each sip helps to cleanse the palate for the next bite of food.
The accompaniments on this board are typical brunch fare: eggs, fruit, croissants, jam, liège waffles, syrup, avocado, sausage, and bacon. Croissants and waffles are the breakfast version of crackers and crostini. The waffles were delicious with the ricotta and the croissants paired well with the Brise du Matin. The fruit on the board was bright and colorful and paired well with the cheese. I particularly liked the kiwi with the Wensleydale. One standout on the board is the black pudding – a British blood sausage made with oats, which my husband absolutely adores. It is a tradition in our house that I serve this on any fancy breakfast, so my first brunch board surely required it. Avocado is also included on the board because it paired well with the cheese (especially the cheddar) and also because I’m a millennial from California so I put avocado on nearly everything I eat.
What Made the Board?